Building A Foundation For Enjoying Fine Wine

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Building A Foundation For Enjoying Fine Wine

From the outside, the world of fine wine can be intimidating.

To newcomers, connoisseurs seem to carry a certain mystique. Their ability to dissect wine's smells, tastes, and subtleties is a honed art.

Upon your first sip of a fine wine, your tongue is flooded with foreign and complex flavors. Woody tones, floral scents, and spiced notes that can bleed together and overwhelm an inexperienced palate.

The truth is, there is no shortcut to deciphering these tastes. A palate for wine can only be acquired through experience. That means one thing: you must simply drink more wine. Developing your palate for wine is a lifetime endeavor, and the joy is in the journey.

Let's start on the right foot by putting words to the tastes. This will help you to define what you're experiencing, give it meaning, and some context.

Breaking Down the Characteristics of Wine

Acidity: According to studies conducted by a team of Italian scientists: malic, tartaric, and citric acids are largely responsible for wine's acidity. These "food acids" come through as a refreshing tartness. A particularly desirable trait when paired with certain foods. The acidity cuts through fats and other flavors on the tongue, preparing your palate for the next bite.

Tannin: Tannin is the astringent "pucker" taste in grapes. It's particularly present in red wines because they have been fermented with the grape skin present. It's quite notable on your tongue and cheeks even after you swallow. Tannin is a natural preservative and allows the wine to age properly. Good tannin balanced with acidity creates a pleasant "mouth feel."

Dryness: Simply put, dryness is the noticed absence of sugar. It's noting how the sweetness of a fruit has been replaced during fermentation. In a good dry wine, you can taste all the flavors that normally accompany a sweet fruit, yet the sweetness itself is missing. In a balanced wine, this trait is also accentuated by acidity and tannin.

Alcohol – The sugar in wine is replaced by alcohol during fermentation. Alcohol makes drinking wine just a bit more fun, but it also plays several important roles.

It helps carry the various scents in wine up to your nose, adding to the sensory experience.

Wine's alcohol content also keeps the drink safe from bacteria during the process and during aging. In fact, because of this, wine was safer to drink than water in many civilizations throughout history. In this way, wine has contributed to the success and survival of mankind.

Flavors – The flavor of wine is derived from countless factors throughout the wine-making process. In fact, where flavor comes from is a whole other complex topic in and of itself. Flavor is affected by the strain of grape, the terroir (or the properties of the place it grew), the process, the vintage, the topography, and the style of the winemaker.  The flavors can come through as both fruity and non-fruity, and can be anything from cherry, grape, and vanilla to earthy, oaky, or floral.

In a great wine, these characteristics come together in balance and harmony. Like a well-orchestrated symphony, each sip creates a unique experience.

This is what fuels the lifelong passion shared by wine-lovers all over the world, and that's definitely something worth clinking glasses to.

Cheers, The Vino Team

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  • Adam Linet